A man who is interested in serving as an elder must desire the role. First Timothy 3:1 says, It is a trustworthy statement:
“if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do.”
The starting point in identifying a potential elder is the desire in the heart of the individual. First Peter 5:2 says,
“Shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God.”
In other words, we are not to go out and recruit men to become elders. There is not a ideal blend for churches of the right pastor/congregant ratio. One who is qualified to be an elder will be eager to give his life in shepherding the flock of God without any thought of gain at all. He will desire the office, pursue being set apart and devote himself to the Word of God. No one will have to talk him into it; it will be his heart’s passion. Furthermore, he serves voluntarily, according to the will of God. His service as an elder is a calling from God. If a man has the desire, feels he is called and has all the qualifications, one thing is still necessary before he can be installed in the Biblical office of elder. The Elders of a local church must together seek God’s will and affirm that He is in the decision.
Acts 14:23 describes the process the Apostles followed in selecting elders:
“And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they and believed.”
It is reasonable to assume that before the Apostles appointed elders, they gave themselves over to prayer and fasting. The Apostles viewed serving Christ’s church in the office of an elder with great seriousness.
Acts 20:28 affirms the Holy Spirit’s work in the selection of elders:
“Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.”
In response to His call, God plants in a man’s heart a passion for the ministry and then confirms it by the leading of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of the existing leadership through prayer. A man should not become an elder just because he has a vague notion that he would like to use his gifts and abilities to help the church. He should not become an elder simply because he has taught and been a member of the church for a long time. He must not be considered because he is a professional, or gets things done, or regularly contributes large amounts of money. He should be motivated by a burden to lead the people of God in spreading the fame of God through the making of disciples and this passion causes him to seek leadership in Christ’s Church. Acts 13:2 says that the instructions from the Holy Spirit to set apart Paul and Barnabas came while they were worshipping the Lord and fasting. The call of God is not to be taken lightly, and the will of God is not to be sought superficially. God’s will in the matter of selecting/appointing of other church leaders will be expressed through the collective sense of God’s working among the leadership and displayed among the church population. The church functions to affirm the call of a particular elder who desires to serve in this role. At Grace Fellowship, we have a particular process by which a person must go through that involves time, education, leadership opportunities, and various equipping dynamics including not only the man seeking this office but also his family as well.
In summary, elders are a group of specially called and appointed men with a great desire to lead and feed the flock of God in the Biblical office of Elder (also described as “Pastor” or “Bishop”). They are initiated by the Holy Spirit, confirmed by prayer, and qualified through the consistent testimony of a pure life in the eyes of the members of Grace Fellowship. Elders are called and appointed by God, confirmed by the church leadership, and appointed to the task of leadership. To them are committed the responsibilities of being examples to the flock, giving the church direction, teaching the people, and in general, leading the congregation. Since God has given the elders the responsibility to lead the church in whole, it implies the responsibility to govern in all areas of policy and doctrine since these are the fundamental ways to give direction to a church.